A street in Ho Chi Minh City
That day in Vietnam was a day when Christmas was nearing. It was the evening of 22nd of December, when the atmosphere of modest celebration was sensed everywhere. We arrived in Hanoi from Incheon International Airport, feeling unsettled and unrest, with nothing that we know about the country, except some experience we gathered from 9 hours of prior transition in Ho Chi Minh City when we headed for Korea from Malaysia.
First time arrived in Viet Nam, trouble found a way to get to us. Some ‘prebet sapu’ drivers tried to attract us into following them, but we resisted. But they kept coming back and the whole time while we were discussing among ourselves of what should we do, they kept eyeing us, as if waiting the moment for us to decide to board their cars. We would, nonetheless, if only they gave a cheaper price. We knew that tourists with less ability to speak a native language are subjected to deception. This, however, almost made us into fighting each other. Finally, we decided to take the airport bus, without knowing where to go.
The only place that we knew was the hotel which we had booked together with the flight tickets earlier. I couldn’t recall the hotel name, but I’d remember it has some ‘star’ in its name. The bus trip from the airport only cost us USD$2, which was far cheaper than the price the ‘prebet sapu’ was offering. If I’m not mistaken, the ‘prebet sapu’ asked us USD$13 for a trip from the airport to the hotel. The only thing good about them was they knew where we were heading to.
I took some pictures while on the bus. And the bus was not as good as the buses in Korea. I know I shouldn’t be so comparative, but I’m just stating the facts. It made me pitying the Vietnamese more. This is the bus in airport, where tourists from all over the world came and having their first impressions. And providing a very poor bus did not help the Vietnamese out in terms of tourists’ opinions.
View from inside the bus. Still at the airport
Open burning and banana plantation? Very Malaysian!
I remembered there was a funny show on the TV of the bus. It was some comedy show of many Vietnamese artists performing a Vietnamese version of Britney Spears’ ‘Baby One More Time’. And all the artists were wearing Vietnam traditional garments. Even though I didn’t laugh at all; well thanks to the freaking out of being a foreigner in a very foreign nation, but I could still feel it’s a funny show. I spent most of the time on the bus reading out the pamphlets I took earlier from the airport. The pamphlets told how tourists should behave in Vietnam; tourist attractions and it was also attached with a map. On the map, we could locate the hotel where we would spend our night on, but we didn’t know how to ask the people the directions to that place. And what interested me more was one booklet itself tells that if you are to eat at any restaurant, be careful with the meat you are eating. Some Vietnam chefs love to cook using dog’s meat and serve the meat to the patron without telling them. But the booklet tells it in a very cheerful way, as if saying that we should try eating dog’s meat because it’s fun. What harm can be done after all?
My eyes kept capturing new panoramas, and my brain would immediately compare all those sceneries with anything that they could be compared to. The worst thing I could not stand of Vietnamese streets were the drivers all kept honking while they are on road. And from the pamphlets I read 90% of the vehicles of the Vietnamese streets are motorcycles.
Ever wonder where the Vietnamese live? These are their houses. I think they look cute. Seriously!
When on the bus, I thought God had sent us an angel of a male Vietnam form. With lost of directions, we didn’t know where were we heading to. But a Vietnam guy who looked very modern and businessman-like, which had boarded the bus together with us earlier in the airport, talked with a male tourist of many things, including the directions, which made us into believing that he could help us.
We got down from the bus when that guy got down. We immediately met that guy and asked him how to get to the hotel. That guy talked to a taxi driver, and that driver soon quickly load our luggage into his boot. The Vietnam guy also wanted to board the taxi, but unfortunately, our luggage alone had occupied all the space of the boot, and we even had to bring along some excessive bags with us inside the taxi. So the Vietnam guy let us go with the taxi and he would take another taxi. I honestly felt disappointed because he was the only one that could help us to communicate with the people of Vietnam. But my friend said that that guy was actually an ‘ulat’ paid to attract unknowing tourists to board the taxis.
And then it was an adventure with that driver. He kept honking and honking, and he drove like a pelesit. If only Vietnamese are allowed to drive in Malaysia, the number of mat rempits would be countless, and maybe even biblical! After a few minutes experiencing the craziness of Vietnam traffic, the taxi driver pulled over in a busy parking near a church. Oh and here comes another trouble. The taxi driver didn’t have enough change, and it took us five minutes or more to understand his condition. He kept gesturing ‘five’ with his fingers, but we couldn’t figure out anything logical by any means. Soon after he himself satisfied with his explanation, he left us with our luggage. And that didn’t solve the enigma of finding the hotel that we booked, or even solving the confusing meaning of ‘five fingers’ he showed us.
Lost once again, we decided to combine the ‘power of three adventurers’ and start looking for the hotel ourselves. That evening was a mild cold evening. It was winter in Hanoi, but the temperature wasn’t lower than 16 degree Celsius. I didn’t know how I knew this but I am pretty sure I’ve kinda read it somewhere in the same pamphlet of the dog’s meat. Hanoi experiences mild winter because it is located northwards of Vietnam, so the climate is different from southern wise Ho Chi Minh City.
Finding the hotel was very depressing. From what we’ve heard, the hotel should be of 3 stars or more. But can you imagine a 3-star hotel located in a slum? Well, maybe only in Vietnam! We had to drag along our heavy luggage, with the motorcyclists kept honking every time they passed by. It was annoying and freaking-ly enraged me! And I think I shouldn’t be mad if it’s on the road, but it’s not. it was just a small alley with very small space for us to walk side by side, let alone having motorcycles to pass this extremely small path.
And we kept walking; like for thirty minutes, but still couldn’t find any sign of the hotel. I was becoming more tired and mad with every passing minute. We began to think that we were cheated by that taxi driver or that businessman-like Vietnamese. I kept cursing and cursing until I couldn’t even think what to say to my friends when they were talking to me. Finally I decided that I should rest, and I will look after our luggage while they were looking for the hotel. And they agreed. For another 15 minutes, I kept cursing while they were looking for that goddamn hotel. I waited on a pavement in front of a shop, and many people passed by me. The only thing that I hoped at that time was I would not be robbed by any Vietnamese villain.
Soon, they found the hotel. And what was surprising the hotel was really located in the slum. OMG. But the hotel was very great though. It must be at least a 4-star hotel. Only in Vietnam, where a 4-star hotel located in a slum. How funny!
That goddamn hotel! See how luxurious it is?
P/s: Next time, make sure u plan before u leave. Just in case!
Last pic: A picture of the clouds; somewhere in between Korea and Vietnam.